JUNE 4: Doctor Who’s Madame Vastra and Jenny F…


Six years
ago today, on June 4, 2011, the seventh episode of the sixth series of Doctor
Who was broadcast on BBC One. What is so special about it, especially for those
who are not familiar with the British Sci-Fi series? Well, this episode
entitled “A Good Man Goes to War” introduced several new characters, including a
lesbian inter-species couple: Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint.


The Great Detective and her Companion, Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint. image from the BBC.

The British
Sci-Fi series actually started in 1963, but LGBT characters only appeared with
the renewal of the show in 2005, with River Song, Captain Jack Harkness, both
omnisexual. The latest LGBT character is no other than the current official
companion of the Doctor (which means that she is a regular character on the
show, contrary to the others) Bill Potts. On that topic Steven Moffat (who is otherwise often accused of mysogyny on the show) declared:  “that is the minimum level of
representation you should have on television,” deploring the fuss made by the media over actress Pearl Mackie revealing her character’s character’s sexual preferences. Doctor Who being a show watched by children, he explains that non-heterosexuality should not be pointed out and thereby identified by children viewers as ‘not normal’, or a ‘special case.’


Now if
Doctor Who could be explained in a few words… An extraterrestrial being, named
the Doctor, who has a certain fondness for planet Earth and its sentient
inhabitants, travels the universe through time and space in his ship, the
TARDIS, shaped like a police box but bigger on the inside, usually accompanied
by a human companion/assistant.

Vastra and Jenny Flint (played respectively by Neve McIntosh and Catrin
Stewart) are secondary characters, but appear more than once in the series,
always accompanied by the third member of their gang, Strax (a Sontaran warrior
and nurse, the comic relief of the trio whose likeness to a potato is often
pointed out).

Vastra is a female Silurian warrior, a humanoid reptilian species from
prehistoric Earth, who chose to hibernate in caves under the ground when they
thought a planet would collide with the Earth – turned out, it was the moon
coming into orbit… She was awakened during the construction of an extension
of the London Underground, and killed several workers in anger before the
Doctor came to the rescue. She adapted to human life, joined Victorian London
society – wearing black dress, accessorised with a black veil to hide her
reptilian complexion from people who don’t know her. She even became a detective and
consultant to Scotland Yard – she tracked down Jack the Ripper in 1888 for them
(and ate him).

When Vastra
took up residence at Paternoster Row, she saved a –human– woman, Jenny Flint
from her attackers, and hired her as her maid. Jenny used to work in a match
factory as a child, and was ostracised by her family due to “her preferences in
companionship.” In the series she shows admirable skills with a sword, in
hand-to-hand combat, and – though anachronistically for her – can hold her own
with a blaster.

They became
more than employer and employee, though they still (most of the time) keep up
appearances in public. They even got married after their first appearance in “A
Good Man Goes to War,” where they met Strax who becomes the butler of the
household. While the trio is known as the Paternoster gang, the couple is often
referred to as Madame Vastra and her human wife Jenny Flint in the show. 


from the episode “The Snowmen”

Outside the scenes of action necessary to the plot, the interactions between Jenny and Vastra are usually quite flirty and humorous, both making light of them being from different species and teasingly calling each other ape and lizard.

The Paternoster gang
appears in several episodes of Doctor Who taking place (at least partly) in
Victorian London: “The Swowmen” (2012), “The Crimson Horror” (2013), “The Name
of the Doctor” (2013) and “Deep Breath” (2014).

moreover, I believe there are no major spoilers in this article of the
couple, so if you happen to be interested in watching Doctor Who…